Hybrid events have been touted as the future of our industry coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic. When done well, they can combine the best of both worlds: the ease of online attendance and as the energy of in-person events. But the reality is often different.
If hybrid events are not well produced, they end up combining the worst of both formats and you'll have online attendees signing off in droves. Following are tips to help you avoid top mistakes.
Bring in Professional Hosts
Professional hosts will make a world of difference. Make sure you have good ones for each in-person location and one for online. If you must use in-house presenters, get them trained. Having someone who only pops up on screen to say, "coming up next is …" or "now it's time to go back to the main stage," is two steps away from useless. Professional hosts know how to make the event about the delegates, get them excited, recover from a poor speaker (let's be honest, they do exist!) and have people fired up for the next session.
Prioritize the Production Quality
While the digital age has let us get away with a few things, you still have to look good. That means hiding cables, microphones and headsets if you can. A few simple actions make the people on stage and on screen look way better. Ask your AV team for some tricks to enhance video quality and decrease distractions.
Any seasoned event professional will tell you that as the day progresses, the schedule shifts. Some sessions might run over, while others are late to start. Having a virtual platform that handles most of the automation is great, but you'll want to make sure that the sessions are controlled manually. Having a session that starts exactly on the hour, before the speaker is ready, or one that cuts out mid-sentence, while the presenter is wrapping things up, are two scenarios you'll want to avoid.
Play to Both Audiences
Whether your attendees are online or in person, you must play to both. If you are giving directions to the delegates in the room, you also need to give cues to the ones online. In addition to saying "turn to the person next to you," you'll need to add "comment in the chat box if you're joining us online." Making sure each attendee feels as though they are part of the event is key to ensuring engagement and overall success.
Warwick Merry is a certified speaking professional, dual-certified virtual presenter and past national president of Professional Speakers Australia. He hosts and produces numerous online events.